In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Allaah [The Exalted] said:
[كَانَ ٱلنَّاسُ أُمَّةً۬ وَٲحِدَةً۬ فَبَعَثَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنذِرِينَ وَأَنزَلَ مَعَهُمُ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ بِٱلۡحَقِّ لِيَحۡكُمَ بَيۡنَ ٱلنَّاسِ فِيمَا ٱخۡتَلَفُواْ فِيهِۚ – Mankind were one community (i.e. upon the upright path and Allaah’s Sharee’ah) and Allah sent Prophets with glad tidings and warnings, and with them He sent the Scripture in truth to judge between people in matters wherein they differed]. [Surah Al-Baqarah’ Aayah 213]
Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “And even though there is something in the paths of analogical reasoning and reflection that will lead to knowledge, however sometimes it cannot give detail explanation in a dispute between the people of the earth due to the minute details and ambiguities [in that dispute], and at other times due to the fact the people differ when prioritizing necessities. Therefore, due to this Allaah [The Most High] commanded (us) to return to the revelation in times of dispute. Allaah [The Most High] designated the revealed Books [i.e. the Qur’aan being the final of them] as the judge between the people in matters wherein they differ”. (1)
Indeed, whenever – in our era – those in authority in the West make their final decisions on economic policy, there’s always a debate and difference of opinion regarding which section of society is going to gain or lose due to rising living cost. Anas Bin Maalik [may Allaah be pleased with him] reported that the people said, “O Allaah’s Messenger! Prices have gone up, so fix prices for us”. So, Allaah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, “Allah is the one Who fixes prices, Who withholds, gives lavishly and provides, and I hope that when I meet Allah, none of you will have any claim on me for an injustice regarding blood or property”. [Saheeh Sunan Abee Dawud. Number 3450]
Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: High increases in prices and their decreases are among those events that none brings about except Allaah alone and nothing can occur from it except by Allaa’s Will, but He [Glory be He and free is He from all imperfections] has made some of the actions of His slaves the cause of some incidents, just as He made the deed of killing of a killer a cause of the death of the victim, and the increase in prices may be due to the injustice of the people, and the decrease may be due to the benevolence of some people. [Majmoo Al-Fataawaa 8/520]
Imaam As-Sadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] stated: The goals and policies of the people regarding wealth and poverty varies due to their personal interests, an absence of adherence to the truth and not giving consideration to the overall public interest. All of them erred (and missed) the path that would lead to beneficial results, because they do not adhere to the guidance of the Islamic religion. Their ideas vary and they acted accordingly, widespread evil and great strife occurred between those who claim to support the poor and the workers and those who cling to riches and wealth. They have a long discussion on this subject matter and all of it is tantamount to error and misguidance.
Allaah has guided the believers to a straight path in all their affairs in general, and in this matter in particular. All praise is due to Allaah, the Islamic Sharee’ah came to rectify the affairs of the rich and the poor as much as possible. When Allaah – The Exalted – decreed that individuals amongst humankind and Jinn will have different social statuses – among them the rich, the poor, the one of high social status and the one of lower social status – based on a Great judgment and underlying reasons that are too precise to describe, He then established a relationship of close ties between them- some given authority over others, established the practice of mutual exchange between them and some in need of others. The All-Wise Law Giver – [The One completely Wise in everything He decrees, and completely Wise in His Sayings, and in His Actions, and there is no deficiency in anything He decrees, says or does] – firstly ordained that they should be brothers, and that they should not take advantage of each other personally; but rather He instructed each of them to fulfil his obligation towards the other by way of which social harmony and the necessities of life are accomplished.
Islam obligated Zakaat from the wealth of the rich based on what is stated regarding its details in the divine revelation. It made spending a means of fulfilling the needs of the needy and a means to attaining the religious wellbeing that secures both the worldly and religious affairs; urges towards kind treatment at all times and on every occasion, obligated that the necessities of the needy are fulfilled- feed the hungry, provide clothing for those without sufficient clothing and pay for the necessities of the destitute. It also enjoins specific spending on family and children, and on what is related to their affairs, and fulfilment of all the obligations related to the mutual dealings that take place between the people. In addition to this, Islam commanded them that neither should they solely rely on their strength and power in seeking after earnings nor consider what they possess to be as a means of (permanent) tranquility and stability; but rather what they should constantly look at is obedience to Allaah, acknowledging Allaah’s favours, Allaah’s facilitation of ease, seeking Allaah’s assistance and thank Allaah for the wealth and prosperity He has favoured them with over others. Allaah obligated on them to confine themselves within the boundaries of Halaal and Haraam, and not to over-indulge in luxury and extravagance in a way that harms their morals, wealth and all their state of affairs; but rather they should be what Allaah has stated in Surah Al-Furqan, Aayah 67: [والذين إذا أنفقوا لم يسرفوا ولم يقتروا وكان بين ذلك قواما – And those, who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes)].
In addition, Allaah commanded them that their pursuit of wealth and the worldly things should be done in an honorable and honest manner, so that they are not tainted with evil gains, such as usury, gambling (see footnote b), swindle, fraud or deception; but rather they should adhere to the ordainments of the divine revelation in their dealings, just as they adhere to that in their personal acts of worship. Allaah commanded them to look at the poor with mercy and benevolence, and not with cruelty, harshness, selfishness, boastfulness, insolence and pride. So, due to these wise instructions, religious well-being becomes the highest degree of honor and perfection, and in such a case, wealth has a praiseworthy description, a perfect attribute, sublimity and loftiness, because indeed the divine revelation refined and purified it, exhorts a person to distance from vices and urges him (or her) to acquire virtues (i.e. virtues mentioned in the divine revelation)”. (2)
As for the manner in which the Islamic religion deals with the poor, it commanded them – as well as everyone else who fails to accomplished his personal wish- to be patient, accept Allaah’s decree, acknowledge that Allaah is All-Wise, possessor of perfect judgment and (All-Wise in) in His disposal of all affairs, and that there are various benefits in this (for a person).
Allaah said: [وعسى أن تكرهوا شيئا وهو خير لكم وعسى أن تحبوا شيئا وهو شر لكم والله يعلم وأنتم لا تعلمون – And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know]. [Surah Al-Baqarah. Aayah 216]
This belief of theirs removes the sadness that enters the hearts and thus leads to helplessness and laziness. Then Allaah commanded them that neither should they seek to remove their poverty and seeking after their needs by depending on the people nor asking them except where it is unavoidable and when it is necessary to do so; and that they seek to remove their poverty through Allaah alone – by way of various activities and means, which Allaah has made a means to removing poverty, and every person preoccupies with the means that suits him and his situation; so, this benefits a person by freeing him from abject dependence, trains him to be strong and active, and fights against laziness and apathy, but also not envying the wealthy due to what Allaah has bestowed on them. Allaah said:
ولا تتمنوا ما فضل الله به بعضكم على بعض للرجال نصيب مما اكتسبوا وللنساء نصيب مما اكتسبن واسألوا الله من فضله إن الله كان بكل شيء عليما
And covet not for the things in which Allah has made some of you to excel others. For men there is reward for what they have earned, (and likewise) for women there is reward for what they have earned, and ask Allah of His Bounty. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knower of everything. [Surah An-Nisaa. Aayah 32]
Allaah commanded them to be sincere in their work, dealings and crafts, and not to hasten in seeking their livelihood by indulging in vile gains that deprives a person of an upright adherence to the religion and corrupts the worldly affairs. And Allaah commanded them to do two things that would help them whilst facing the hardship of poverty: economize and to be contented with what Allaah has bestowed on them, (because) little sustenance alongside wise economization becomes a lot. Contentment is an inexhaustible treasure and richness without wealth. There are many poor people who are blessed with contentment and the ability to economize- neither wishing for what the luxurious people possess nor feeling bitter about their meager sustenance. When the poor people are guided by the guidance of the religion to exercise patience and attach themselves to Allaah, freed from abject dependence, working hard and striving in honorable and beneficial deeds and satisfied with Allaah’s grace, the burden and difficulty of poverty will be eased for them. In addition to this, they do not cease striving for self-sufficiency (and to obtain more provision), whilst hoping for the bounty of their Lord, awaiting His promise and fearing Him. Allaah said: [ ومن يتق الله يجعل له مخرجا ويرزقه من حيث لا يحتسب – And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). Allaah said: [ ومن يتوكل على الله فهو حسبه – And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him]. [Surah At-Talaaq. Aayaat 2-3]
The first affair is that the poor have been commanded – as well as everyone who fails to accomplished his personal wish- to be patient and accept Allaah’s decree. Allaah said:
[ وَلَنَبۡلُوَنَّكُم بِشَىۡءٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡخَوۡفِ وَٱلۡجُوعِ وَنَقۡصٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡأَمۡوَٲلِ وَٱلۡأَنفُسِ وَٱلثَّمَرَٲتِۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ – And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.).] [Surah Al-Baqarah. Aayah 155]
If the poor person exercise patience, he receives the reward of those who are patience and he is similar to the grateful wealthy person, because if the patient poor person and the grateful wealthy person are equal in their fear of Allaah, they are equal in status as has preceded from a statement of Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [may Allaah have mercy upon him].
Acknowledge that Allaah is All-Wise, possesses perfect judgment and (All-Wise) in His disposal of all affairs, and that there are various benefits in this affair (for a person). It may be that the poor person hates his state of poverty, but it is better for him and more beneficial for him when he meets his Lord. It may be that wealth would have come to him and thus he is put to trial and turned away from the purpose of life (i.e. to worship Allaah alone and obey Him), so his poverty maybe better than if he was to be wealthy. And this why the author transmitted the Aayah: [وعسى أن تكرهوا شيئا وهو خير لكم وعسى أن تحبوا شيئا وهو شر لكم والله يعلم وأنتم لا تعلمون – and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know]. [Surah Al-Baqarah. Aayah 216]
This why a person should believe (with certainty) that Allaah is All-Wise in His disposal of all affairs and He knows everything about His servants. If a person has this belief, all the sadness in his heart will be removed, becomes active and embark upon seeking a livelihood.
Neither should they seek to remove their poverty and seeking after their needs by depending on the people nor asking them except where it is unavoidable and when it is necessary to do so.
They should seek to remove their poverty through Allaah alone- by way of what Allaah has made a means to removing poverty, and they are various activities and means, and every person preoccupies with the means that suits him and his situation, so a person benefits through this by being freed from the abject dependence, trains him to be strong and active, and fighting against laziness and apathy. This comprises of two instructions:
To seek Allaah’s Assistance, supplicating to Allaah, constantly supplicating to Allaah, seeking His protection against poverty and the trial of poverty, asking Allaah for bounty through His Names, such as Al-Wahhaab, Al-Muhsin, Al-Mannaan.
Employ the means, as Allaah said: [هُوَ ٱلَّذِى جَعَلَ لَكُمُ ٱلۡأَرۡضَ ذَلُولاً۬ فَٱمۡشُواْ فِى مَنَاكِبِہَا وَكُلُواْ مِن رِّزۡقِهِۦۖ وَإِلَيۡهِ ٱلنُّشُورُ -it is, Who has made the earth subservient to you (i.e. easy for you to walk, to live and to do agriculture on it, etc.), so walk in the path thereof and eat of His provision, and to Him will be the Resurrection]. [Surah Al-Mulk. Aayh 15]
So, a person strives in work and to earn a livelihood- through permissible means and those means legislated in the divine legislation, gradually improves in his work, even if it is the case that he is not satisfied with the work he is doing or that it is not a sufficient means of livelihood, but rather he works until he reaches another job that is more beneficial.
Should not envy the wealthy people due to what Allaah has bestowed on them. The poor person should beware of envy, because the wealth in the possession of the wealthy is Allaah’s bounty and favour, therefore envying them for such wealth is tantamount to being an enemy of Allaah’s bounty. Yes, indeed if a person sees something in the possession of another person, he may wish that he has the same and this called Ghibtah (i.e. to wish for the thing, but not envying the person); but it is forbidden if one hates such blessing that is bestowed on another person, or wishes that such blessing should cease to exist or strives to stop it. Just one would not wish that he is envied, or that someone wishes that such blessing should cease or strives to stop it, then likewise he should not behave in such a manner towards others.
They should be sincere in their work, dealings and crafts. So when they are bestowed with some work, they should be sincere, truthful and deal with others in a good manner, because these are some of the means to Barakah (i.e. to be blessed) in one’s livelihood as opposed to the affair of the one who deceives in his dealings, lies, behaves badly etc.
Should not hasten in seeking livelihood by indulging in vile gains that deprives a person of an upright adherence to the religion and corrupts the worldly affairs. Some poor people want to remove the problem of poverty without caring how that is done, so he does not care about entering into usury, or whether he steals, transgresses, deceives and lies. The other affair one should beware of is not to go to the magicians, the soothsayers and sorcerers to obtain amulets from them, whilst thinking that this would end poverty. So, when one of them wants to enter into a business, he goes to a sorcerer for consultation regarding his business or his journey, or he goes to a magician…this is a destruction of one’s religion. Likewise, one should not attach himself to the dead inhabitants of the graves, such as what some of the ignorant people do when they seek to solve a problem by attaching themselves to the dead inhabitants of the graves, invoking them and vowing to them. This is tantamount to Shirk (polytheism).
Allaah commanded them to do two things that would help them whilst facing the hardship of poverty: to economize and be contented with what Allaah has bestowed on them, (because) little sustenance alongside wise economization becomes a lot. Contentment is an inexhaustible treasure and richness without wealth.
Economization: The person’s food, drink, dwelling place and means of transportation are all within what he can afford. This is very important because many people spend beyond their means until they owe debts which they cannot afford to repay, even though he would have been able to live based on what he can afford. So by way of economization, little wealth becomes plentiful and a person is blessed with the little he possesses, but if he is not satisfied with economization, then this would harm him.
Contentment: To be satisfied with what one has. The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, “Wealth is not in having many possessions; but rather true wealth is the richness of the soul”. [Hadeeth Number 6446] The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, “‘’Whoever among you wakes up [in the morning] safe in his property, healthy in his body and has his daily nourishment, it is as if he has been granted the entire world”. [Sunan Ibn Maajah. Hadeeth 4141]
There are many poor people who are blessed with contentment and the ability to economize- neither wishing for what the luxurious people possess nor feeling bitter about their meager sustenance.
Not to look at those above you, rather look at those below lest you belittle the blessings of Allah that have been bestowed upon you. Do look at the one who has more wealth or trade than you, or the one with a better house, a better livelihood or means of transport, but rather look at the one who is below you. That is because when you look at the one who has less wealth, you’ll say “Alhamdulil laah”; but if you look at the one above, you’ll belittle the blessings you have and then say, “I don’t have anything”, and you forget the many other blessings, such as the blessing of Islam, the blessing of good health, the blessing of a dwelling place, the blessing of safety, the blessing of children etc. The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said: “Look at those who are below you and do not look at those above you, for it is more suitable lest you look down on Allaah’s blessings”. [Saheeh Muslim. Hadeeth Number 2963]
When the poor people are guided by the guidance of the religion to exercise patience and attach themselves to Allaah, freed from abject dependence, working hard and striving in honorable and beneficial deeds and satisfied with Allaah’s grace, the burden and difficulty of poverty will be eased for them. In addition to this, they do not cease striving for self-sufficient (and to obtain more provision), hoping for the bounty of their Lord, awaiting His promise and fearing Him. Allaah said: [ومن يتق الله يجعل له مخرجا ويرزقه من حيث لا يحتسب – And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty)]. [ ومن يتوكل على الله فهو حسبه – And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him]. [Surah At-Talaaq. Aayaat 2-3]
Taqwah [Fear of Allaah] is to act in obedience to Allaah upon a light from Allaah [i.e. Eemaan, sincerity, guidance etc] and hoping for reward from Allah. And you abandon disobedience to Allaah upon a light from Allah and fearing the punishment of Allah.
Increase in Istighfaar – seeking Allaah’s forgiveness. Allaah said [that Prophet Nooh (peace be upon him) said to his people]:
فَقُلۡتُ ٱسۡتَغۡفِرُواْ رَبَّكُمۡ إِنَّهُ ۥ كَانَ غَفَّارً۬ا
يُرۡسِلِ ٱلسَّمَآءَ عَلَيۡكُم مِّدۡرَارً۬ا
وَيُمۡدِدۡكُم بِأَمۡوَٲلٍ۬ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجۡعَل لَّكُمۡ جَنَّـٰتٍ۬ وَيَجۡعَل لَّكُمۡ أَنۡہَـٰرً۬ا
I said (to them): “Ask forgiveness from your Lord; Verily, He is Oft-Forgiving; He will send rain to you in abundance; and give you increase in wealth and children, and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you rivers”. [Surah Nooh. Aayaat 10-12]
So, when a person has little, he should increase in Istighfaar. A man came to Imaam al-Hasan Al-Basri [may Allaah have mercy upon him] and complained about poverty, so he said to him, “Seek Allaah’s forgiveness”. A second man came to him and complained to him about not having children, he said to him, “Seek Allaah’s forgiveness”. Another one came to him and complain about his orchard that it is dry, he said to him, “Seek Allaah’s forgiveness”. So, a man who was present said to him, “Everyone who came to you was told to seek Allaah’s forgiveness!” He replied, “I did not say more than what is in the Qur’aan”, then he recited:
فَقُلۡتُ ٱسۡتَغۡفِرُواْ رَبَّكُمۡ إِنَّهُ ۥ كَانَ غَفَّارً۬ا
يُرۡسِلِ ٱلسَّمَآءَ عَلَيۡكُم مِّدۡرَارً۬ا
وَيُمۡدِدۡكُم بِأَمۡوَٲلٍ۬ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجۡعَل لَّكُمۡ جَنَّـٰتٍ۬ وَيَجۡعَل لَّكُمۡ أَنۡہَـٰرً۬ا
I said (to them): “Ask forgiveness from your Lord; Verily, He is Oft-Forgiving; He will send rain to you in abundance; and give you increase in wealth and children, and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you rivers”. [Surah Nooh. Aayaat 10-12] In these Aayaat, Allaah mentioned Istighfaar and then mentioned its worldly fruitful outcomes. As for in the afterlife, the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said: “Glad tidings to those who find a lot of seeking forgiveness in the record of their deeds”. [Sunan Ibn Maajah. Hadeeth Number 3818]
The person should not reply upon the means he employs to seek provision, rather he should rely and depend on Allaah alone. Allaah said: [ومن يتوكل على الله فهو حسبه – And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him].
So, the person employs the means and is eager in seeking what benefits him, such as trade or some craftmanship, but he relies upon Allaah alone. The Prophet said that when one – whilst leaving his (or her) home – says: [بِسْمِ اللَّهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ عَلَى اللَّهِ لَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللَّهِ – In the name of Allah, I trust in Allah for there is no movement or might but in Allah], it will be said to him that you have been sufficed and protected, and the devils will be far from him. [Saheeh Sunan Tirmidhee. Hadeeth Number 3426]
These religious teachings and guidance – from Allaah and His Messenger – for the rich and poor will bring them good, prevent them from evil and harm, and produce for them the most beautiful fruitful outcomes in this life and the next. This is the only solution – from Ar Rabb Al-Majeed (see footnote a) – to the problem of wealth and poverty, and everything else besides it is suffering and misery, harm and destruction. And Allaah is the Bestower of success. (3)
Footnote a: Ar-Rabb: The Lord and Nurturer. The Lord and Master Who has none like Him in His Lordship. The One Who nurtures and rectifies the affairs of the creation by the favors which He showers upon them. The sovereign Owner Who alone creates and commands. The One Who controls the affairs and grants blessings. The One Who nurtures. The Creator. The Provider. The One Who aids. And The One Who guides. Al-Majeed: The One Perfect in Glory and Honor. The One Great in Honor. The One greatly extolled and praised. The Magnificent One, having the attributes of glory, majesty, greatness, and splendour. The One greater, more tremendous, and more exalted than everything. The One glorified and venerated in the hearts of His beloved servants. [By Shaikh Abu Talhah Dawud Burbank (may Allaah have mercy upon him and his wife)].
[Ref 1: Dar Ta’aarud Al-Aql Wan-Naql: 9/17-18]
[Ref 2: From 39mins 58secs to the end https://www.al-badr.net/detail/3KwCnaB5tN. paraphrased]
[Ref 3: From the beginning to 44mins 24secs. https://www.al-badr.net/detail/6y71LsHDZr paraphrased]